A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, the Labour Party and Hackney - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tories understanding the UK outside the M25

The Tory website this morning says tonight's debate is in Manchester:


Except it isn't. It's in Birmingham.

But then if your life has revolved around Eton, Notting Hill and Witney, probably all these Midlands and Northern cities with their millions of Labour voters and absence of Tory MPs all blur into one.

Hopefully their web team are not responsible for the logistics of getting their boss to the right city tonight.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Why Labour can win

There is some wishful thinking going on from the "we love Liberals more than we love our own party" wing of Labour, such as Compass/the Guardian's John Harris who in the article I've linked to charmingly calls people like me "knuckle-head tribalists".

Personally I'd rather be a loyal "knuckle-head tribalist" than be someone undermining their own party and delusional about the politics of their wished-for coalition partner.

Labour's internal fifth column of "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" half want us to lose our majority because they are stuck in a 2005 paradigm where the Lib Dems under Charlie Kennedy were cuddly anti-war, anti-tuition fees lefties who would never have propped up a Tory government and who the fifth columnists believe would drag a Lab/Lib government to the left.

They need to wake up and smell the coffee. Not once has a senior Lib Dem talked up partnership with Labour. All of Clegg's recent comments have been heavy hints about a deal with Cameron, which makes more sense on every basis for him - policy (he's an Orange Book rightwinger), personality (he hates Gordon and gets on OK with Cameron), and political calculation (what gain would the LDs get from helping a defeated government stay in office?). The idea of a “progressive anti-Tory alliance” is a Guardian-writer/reader fantasy that died with Ming Campbell's social-democratic leadership of the Lib Dems.

We shouldn’t talk about hung parliaments until we know the election result. It’s defeatist and demoralises our voters and activists. Once we know the result I’m open to working with the Lib Dems in a hung parliament – anything would be better than a Tory-led government. But this is more in hope than expectation. The bottom line is nothing suggests they are open to working with us.

In any case the current polls only put a 6% gap between us and the Tories so we could still win a majority. Last night's You Gov result was Con 34%, Lab 28%, LD 30%. A tiny 3% movement from this position would put us and the Tories both on 31%, which would leave Labour just 17 seats short of a majority. A further 2% clawed back from the LDs (Con 31%, Lab 33%, LD 28%), which is a highly plausible final result, would produce a Labour majority government.

Do Harris et al really believe Labour can't get from 28% to 33%? I believe we can.

YouGov's Peter Kellner explains here another factor that could yet win this for Labour: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article7107265.ece:

"The Lib Dem surge is hurting Tory prospects in Labour-Conservative marginals. Individual nationwide polls cannot detect this; but because YouGov is questioning different samples of about 1,500 people daily, we can combine a week’s polls into a total sample of more than 10,000 and see what is happening in different kinds of seat.

YouGov has compared the results from BC (before Clegg) and AD (after debate) in the 115 Labour-Conservative marginals that would fall to the Tories on a swing of 8%. In 2005 Labour’s overall lead in these seats was 9%.

In this election, during the BC days, the Tory lead in these seats was 4%. Compared with 2005, that represented a swing to the Tories of 6.5% in these target seats, compared with a swing of 5% nationally.

In other words, the Tories were doing better where they needed to win than in the rest of Britain, and stood to capture 94 Labour seats. Add in, say, 10 gains from the Lib Dems and the Tories would be just 12 short of an overall majority.

The AD pattern is different. Our sample of 2,220 in these target seats now puts Labour one point ahead. The swing since 2005 is down to 4% in the Labour marginals — the same as the national swing. Not only is the prospect of big Conservative gains from the Lib Dems slipping away; the bonus swing the Tories had been enjoying in the Labour marginals has also disappeared.

The Lib Dem surge has hurt the Tories with special force in Labour-Conservative marginals. The 10-point gain in Lib Dem support in these seats has been overwhelmingly at the Tories’ expense."

It is all still to play for and the defeatists in our own ranks need to shut up before they create a self-fulfilling prophesy.

A target seat the Lib Dems might not take

Luciana Berger seems to be putting up a real fight in the Lab vs LD marginal of Liverpool Wavertree:

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A little reminder about tactical voting

Compass are consulting their members about whether to advocate tactical voting: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/apr/23/compass-tactical-voting-ballot

Mehdi Hassan at the New Statesman has correctly guessed I wouldn't be impressed: http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/mehdi-hasan/2010/04/tactical-voting-compass-labour

Compass' contemplation of advocating tactical voting is silly on two counts:

a) the Lib Dems have at no point indicated any preference for falling in with Labour in the event of a hung parliament, in fact logic suggests they would have nothing to gain by propping us up if we had just been ejected by the electorate. Therefore helping increase the number of Lib Dem MPs by tactical voting might just be increasing the size of majority of a Con/LD partnership.

b) the only thing that the LDs have said would influence their behaviour in a hung parliament is the "mandate" acquired by the other two parties. Assuming that as PR supporters they mean they will help the party that got most votes to form a government, it is important to ensure that Labour maximises the number of votes we get nationwide, including in seats where we are in third place, as any tactical votes "loaned" to the LDs will not be gratefully acknowledged as such, they'll be used as ammo for suggesting that Labour has less of a "mandate" than the Tories and that therefore the LDs should help Cameron form a government.

Advocating tactical voting is an appalling betrayal of local Labour Parties and PPCs battling away in third-placed seats and a sure-fire way to undermine our activist and local government base in those areas so that we cease to be a national party. It is also often based on dud information - results from 2005 that are five years out of date and in any case notional because of boundary changes are used to try to guess who the main challenger to the Tories is in a given seat. If this criteria had been followed in 1997 tactical voting advocates would have called for a Lib Dem vote in seats like Hastings & Rye which in fact Labour gained from third place.

By the time they have completed their ballot Compass many well find the scenario they are trying to respond to out of date. For instance, if tonight's MORI poll (Con 36% (+4), Lab 30% (+2), LD 23% (-9)) turns out to be the start of a trend rather than a rogue poll, we are back to the tight two-party Lab vs Con fight we saw until the first debate.

Just a gentle reminder to any Labour Party members who are in Compass that if they as individuals publicly advocate tactical voting for other parties they can risk being automatically expelled from the Labour Party under Chapter 2, Rule A 4 B of the Labour Party Rule Book:


"A member of the party who ... supports any candidate who stands against an official Labour candidate ... shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member, subject to the provisions of part Chapter 6 A.2 below of the disciplinary rules."

Where we can identify potential Lib Dem voters as seeing themselves on the centre-left (not all do) we need to be getting them to understand that Clegg has given no assurances that he won't help give the keys to Downing Street to the Tories and that the only unambiguous way to block Tory participation in government is to elect the maximum number of Labour MPs.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Poplar Punch-up

My partner Linda is working for the London Labour Party and witnessed the incident today which resulted in - according to the BBC - "a man in his 30s ... arrested on suspicion of assaulting two female Labour Party volunteers in east London": http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/election_2010/8638267.stm

Linda was the person who alerted the local police. She and other Labour activists assumed it was BNP thugs attacking John Prescott, such was the physical nature of the attempt to disrupt him speaking.

She took these pictures of the idiots who were involved.
Wearing their masks before trying to disrupt Prezza speaking:



After being unmasked in a "Scooby-Doo" moment when they were recognised as the Tory candidates for the East India & Lansbury Ward and before a chat with the Met's finest:




Well done to John Prescott for continuing his walkabout meeting local voters despite pesky Tory candidates.

Recycled candidates and flags of convenience

I'm grateful to Lib Dem Voice (see even I can be nice to Lib Dems if I try hard) for spotting that the Hackney Greens are so into recycling that they even recycle their council candidates:


Paul Homer is standing in Hale ward, Barnet and also in Victoria ward, Hackney


Paul Martin Ingram is standing in Camberwell Green ward, Southwark, and Hackney Central ward, Hackney


As the LDs say "It’s perfectly legal (as you can qualify in different areas under, for example, the live and work qualifications) but it raises questions about how committed you are to either place – or how you would do the two jobs, representing different areas on different councils, if elected."


In the interests of balance I should point out that the LDs are such a two-faced, opportunistic outfit that they are running under different labels in the same borough.


Voters in wards in Hackney with a traditionally high Green vote will be presented with candidates listed on the ballot paper as "Liberal Democrats - For A Greener Britain". Voters in Hackney wards with less of a Green presence and a bigger council estate and BME population instead get candidates listed as "Liberal Democrats - For A Fairer Britain". I'd love to know what they run as in Surrey or Devon.

In other news, such is the vibrancy of the Hackney Lib Dem campaign, one of our volunteer activists this morning bumped into a paid commercial leaflet-deliverer distributing their stuff, and in Dalston (now part of Hackney North constituency), they are delivering leaflets intended for Hackney South.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lib/Labbery - no thanks

One of the more pleasant things about not being a parliamentary candidate or member of Party staff in this election, unlike in the last three, is that I'm more free to say when I think we are making the wrong strategic calls.

In the case of our reaction to the recent boost for the Lib Dems, I don't even have to write anything new as what I wrote in February in reaction to Peter Hain's olive branch to the Lib Dems is still pertinent.

Let's be clear: I am in favour of a fairer voting system that gives the parties seats in proportion to their share of the votes. In the event of a hung parliament I am in favour of trying to find common ground with the Lib Dems to keep the Tories out of power - even though participation in a coalition or pact might not be in Labour's partisan interest (the partisan thing to do in a hung parliament is to be the only major party in opposition, then capitalise on the others' problems in government), the fragility of the economic recovery means we may need to work with the Lib Dems to stop the Tories trashing the economy.

But these are matters for after the election. Before the election we have to maximise the Labour vote and number of Labour seats against all comers, including the Lib Dems.

For now, they are our electoral enemies in a three-cornered fight. We have to present voters with a clear reason to vote not just "anti-Tory" but "pro-Labour".

The Lib Dems know this. They are not trying to reciprocate our overtures. They are trying to permanently destroy us. It's as though confronted by an axe-wielding assassin we react by trying to give them a big hug.

Here's what I wrote back in February:

"Peter Hain has said in today's Guardian that "the new development in British politics is the emerging common ground" between Labour and the Lib Dems: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/feb/25/be-lib-dem-vote-labour.

Whilst I applaud his efforts to garner tactical votes from Lib Dem voters in Labour vs Tory seats, he couldn't be more wrong in his analysis of the Lib Dems' positioning.

In fact, the Lib Dems are remarkably close in tone to the Tories, with "Orange Book" free-marketeers very much in the driving seat.Hain's claim that "we share common ground on the fundamentals of economic strategy" is nonsense given Clegg's stated support for "savage cuts".

Hain is right to say that "Millions see themselves, not as dyed-in-the-wool Labour supporters, but as progressives who may also vote Lib Dem or Green or, in Wales, Plaid Cymru."

But he is wrong to suggest that the way you get those people to vote Labour is to indulge in "me-tooism", making out that all party allegiances on the centre-left are interchangeable and never laying a glove on the parties he names.

In fact, we need to be educating those voters that although superficially progressive, the Lib Dems, Greens and Nats are in fact the opposite. The Lib Dems are the Tories' "mini-me", in coalition with them in twice as many hung councils as they are with Labour, and far more likely to prop up a Cameron government than a Labour one. The Greens are a party that has no connection to working class values or needs whatsoever, and want to destroy the economic growth and revitalised manufacturing that working class communities need. The SNP and Plaid are nationalists whose ideology is the antithesis of progressive internationalism and would see England left to perpetual Tory rule.

We need to be highlighting the perils of letting the Tories in through the back door by voting for the Lib Dems and minor parties, not cosying up to them.We need to destroy the myth that the Lib Dems are somehow progressive and work to get a situation where Labour is the only rational voting choice for people who consider themselves on the progressive left.

The route to mobilising the "natural anti-Tory majority" Hain talks of doesn't start with giving the Lib Dems a kiss of life with tactical voting, it starts by destroying them as an electoral force so that the division of the anti-Tory majority disappears because the party that caused that division is no longer a viable alternative to Labour.

As Harold Wilson said in his early '60s speech that famously began "the Labour Party is a moral crusade or it is nothing", we, Labour, were created for a reason - because the Liberals believed in political and religious freedom but did nothing to campaign for economic freedom.

We should be trying to purge our political system of this relic party from the pre-universal suffrage days of 19th century,which hasn't held power since 1922 and last time it did landed us in World War One.I have no idea why Hain is trying to resuscitate Lib-Labbery when it is anathema to almost every Labour activist and member. It is particularly damaging in seats where we are trying to build Labour from third place, as it gives the green light for a tactical squeeze on Labour there.

The job of Labour MPs and PPCs everywhere should be to promote Labour voting on its own merits, not as part of a mushy melange of indistinct vaguely or faux progressive parties."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The madness of FPTP

Anyone who hasn't already worked out that our First Past The Post (FPTP) voting system is nuts and indefensible should look at the projected results that the post-debate YouGov poll would produce on a uniform national swing:

Con 33% - 254 seats
LD 30% - 101 seats
Lab 28% - 263 seats

So Labour would get most seats despite coming third on the popular vote! Even a partisan Labour supporter like me can see that isn't a sustainable constitutional position.

As the three parties are so close together in the polls, let's have a look at the results if they were flipped round:

Lab 33% - 351 seats
LD 30% - 99 seats
Con 28% - 169 seats

i.e. an increased Labour majority on 3% less of the vote.

Or:

Lab 33% - 334 seats
Con 30% - 196 seats
LD 28% - 89 seats

Or:

Con 33% - 245 seats
Lab 30% - 289 seats
LD 28% - 84 seats

Or

LD 33% - 127 seats
Con 30% - 215 seats
Lab 28% - 276 seats

- the largest party gets least seats and the smallest the most!

This isn't an electoral system it's a lottery.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Council by-elections

Not quite the biggest political event last night, but some straws in the wind from the two council by-elections (same place, different level councils):

Kirkgate Ward, Fenland DC. LD gain from Con. LD 287 (51.3%), Con 145 (25.9%), Lab 74 (13.2%), UKIP 54 (9.6%). Con unopposed in 2007 so no swing calculable.

Wisbech North, Cambs CC. Con hold. Con 548 (34.8%, -6.9), LD 506 (32.1%, +20), Lab 287 (18.2%, +2.7), UKIP 233 (14.8%, -15.9). Swing of 13.5% from Con to LD since 2009.

The debate

I did my real time commentary last night on Twitter - first time I've really used it much but it seems to suit instant comment.

Clegg was a worthy winner of the post-debate polling in the sense that his personal style best suited the calm format of a TV debate - the exact opposite of the PMQs bearpit. However, it appears that people being polled about the debate were judging the "winner" based on technique rather than content, as though this was a university debating competition. They can't have been listening to the content because Clegg's bizarre mix of liberalism on crime and immigration, Thatcherism on the economy and cutting public services, and CND on nuclear weapons is according to most polls the opposite of what the average voter wants.

I thought Gordon held his own in a format that didn't play to his strengths and that he succeeded in getting our attack message on the risk of the Tories across well. What he needs to do in the next two is give people a bit more of the "vision thing" - what our aspirations are for a fourth term - he needs to verbalise the sunlit uplands on the cover of our manifesto.

Cameron must have deeply disappointed his team. After all the hype, he was, to steal a phrase from Lloyd Bentsen, "no JFK".

We won't know the impact until tonight's polls, which will tell us who the LDs have taken vote share off. My hunch is Labour will be stable and there will be a 4% shift from Con to LD which will mean the main parties are almost level-pegging.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

New PPB

Hackney Labour Manifesto Launched

Hackney Labour has launched our manifesto for the local elections and for Hackney Mayor.

The manifesto is a detailed and costed set of proposals which set out a clear vision for the borough for the next four years and which looks back on our record since the last election.

Highlights of some of our commitments are:
  • make it easier for people to report anti social behaviour and noise nuisance
  • launch a campaign for responsible dog ownership
  • commit to further support for victims of domestic violence
  • increase drug and alcohol treatment places by 10%
  • we will plant at least another 1,000 street trees
  • we will look to expand our recycling service further
  • all residential streets will be covered by a 20mph speed limit by 2014
  • we will look to support those residents who want to grow more of their own food
  • continue to provide free swimming for children and the elderly
  • continue to work with the Hackney Empire to ensure it reopens
  • we will complete the rebuilding or refurbishment of all our secondary schools
  • six primary schools will be rebuilt or refurbished to the highest standards
  • we will open five new youth centres
  • we will complete Decent Homes on our estates by 2013
  • we will use all our powers to bring empty properties back into use
  • by 2013 - we will have created 100 council apprenticeships
  • we'll increase the number of council services available online

You can download a copy of it here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Regional swings

PoliticsHome has done a useful table showing YouGov's aggregated regional swing data:


This gives a far more realistic picture of what's going on than the national poll numbers do, as it reveals different regions have moved towards the Tories at very different rates.

I've run the numbers against the Tory target seat list, thanks to my trusty copy of Rallings & Thrasher's "Media Guide to the New Parliamentary Constituencies" and found that they would produce (in descending order of Con to Lab swing):

West Midlands (9% swing): 18 gains from Lab, 1 from LD

North East (8.5% swing): 2 gains from Lab (nice swing but hardly any marginals up there)

North West (7.5% swing): 19 gains from Lab, 3 from LD

East Midlands (7.5% swing): 12 gains from Lab

Eastern (7.5% swing): 10 gains from Lab

Wales (7% swing): 4 gains from Lab, 1 from LD, 2 PC gains from Lab

Yorkshire (6.5% swing): 9 gains from Lab, 1 from LD

London (5% swing): 9 gains from Lab, 3 from LD

South East (5% swing): 5 gains from Lab, 4 from LD

Scotland (1% swing): No Tory gains, 1 SNP gain from Lab

South West (0.5% swing): No gains from Lab, 2 from LD

There wouldn't be any LD gains from Lab or Con.

The net impact is to leave the Tories about 10 seats short of an overall majority and Labour still with some southern outposts such as Dover, Luton N, both Norwichs, both Swindons, the Bristol cluster, both Plymouths, Exeter, South Dorset, Gloucester, Stroud, Reading West, Oxford East, Slough, both Southamptons and Brighton Pavilion; plus a big block of LD seats in the South West.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tory Manifesto Launch

Tory speech on how changed and modernised they are delivered by err.... failed Thatcherite leader William Hague. Surely some mistake?

Monday, April 12, 2010

That Leaflet

I have a suspicion quite a few of the Tories ranting about Labour's "sick" leaflet (David Cameron's terminology) about cancer haven't actually seen it or read it.

You can judge it for yourself here: http://www.thestraightchoice.org/leaflet.php?q=940

To my mind it's entirely fair and factual, pointing out Labour's cancer guarantee and that the Tories are committed to scrapping it.

Is Labour supposed not to mention policy differences between the parties if they are connected to people's health?

And surely the exact people that need to know about the policy choice on cancer are people of the age and demographic profile most at risk of it.

I've had cancer - I'm due a PET scan in June to see if my tumour is still there. I want to know what the parties' policies are for diagnosing and treating the group of diseases I've had.

This isn't scare-mongering - the parties have a duty of care to voters to tell them the negative consequences of electing their opponents. No where could that be more profoundly important than if one of the parties' policies reduces your chances of surviving a potentially fatal disease.

I'm reminded of the 2006 Camden elections. At least one ward Labour Party refused to deliver a leaflet warning old people that a Tory/Lib Dem council would cut their services. They thought this was scare-mongering. Without the warning, we narrowly lost a seat in that ward. The Council went hung. And guess what? The Tories and Lib Dems did make the cuts to services that the squeamish Labour activists had refused to warn voters about.

The "sick" people in this case are not Labour for warning voters about Tory policy and the political choice about cancer care but the Tories for having such a policy.

Lib Dem funding of Hackney schools

Just watching Nick Clegg get slaughtered by Paxman.

Interesting bit for me as a Hackney councillor and parent was that the Lib Dem Pupil Premium, allegedly designed to help the poorest kids, would according to their own figures (here) give just £471k to Hackney (Paxman says this equals just £50 per pupil), as opposed to £7.5 million for the Isle of Wight (half Hackney's population), and £4.7 million to leafy Herefordshire, which happen to be places they are electorally competitive in.

Cartoon Time

           

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Road Ahead

Friday, April 09, 2010

In praise of Roger Godsiff

Campaign Group MP Lynne Jones has ended her parliamentary career by almost but not quite endorsing Salma Yaqoob (candidate of George Galloway's Respect party, which used to be a coalition of Trots and Islamists but has now suffered a walk out by the Socialist Workers' Party).

Yaqoob is running in the new Birmingham Hall Green seat against veteran MP Roger Godsiff. This is expected to be a Labour vs. Respect marginal though the Lib Dems also fancy their chances.

You can see the careful wording Jones has used here: http://www.thestirrer.co.uk/April_10/jones-endorses-yaqoob-080410.html - stopping just short of the direct endosement of Yaqoob that would lead to automatic expulsion from the Labour Party.

Ironically, Godsiff's voting pattern in the Commons is not that disimilar to that of Jones and the rest of the Campaign Group:
  • He voted for Jones' amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill
  • He voted for an inquiry into the Iraq War
  • He voted to abolish the ID cards programme
  • He voted for Frank Field's compensation proposal on the 10p tax rate
  • He voted for the reintroduction of the committee system in local councils
  • He voted against 90 day detention

Overall he was the 16th most rebellious member of the PLP in 2008/9.

Either Ms Jones is such a sectarian that anyone who does not match her own record of being the 5th most rebellious Labour MP must be purged, or she has an extremely long memory.

For the other half of Roger Godsiff's political career, before he became a totally un-whippable rebel backbencher, was to have been Political Officer of APEX, later part of the GMB, in the '80s. In this role he was one of the key organisers with people like John Golding and John Spellar, of the fightback by moderate trade unionists which systematically smashed the Bennite Hard Left's grip on Labour's NEC and enabled Kinnock and Hattersley to make Labour electable again.

Roger Godsiff may be an abrasive character with some quirky views but he doesn't deserve to be stabbed in the back by a fellow Labour MP. The last thing Birmingham Hall Green needs is an MP who is a proponent of Respect's brand of communalist politics.

People on Labour's left should be backing Godsiff because he is a free-thinker who has rebelled with the left on a range of key issues. People on Labour's right should be backing him because his historic contribution to Labour's recovery from insanity deserves our gratitude. Lynne Jones joins the ranks of people like Brian Sedgemore who have chosen to end their parliamentary careers by betraying their Party.

Twitter claims first candidate scalp

The New Statesman has dug out - http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2010/04/labour-candidate-twitter-calls - my warning from a while back:

"one ill-considered email, tweet, blog post or Facebook status upset by a candidate or campaigner can provide a lot of ammo for the old-fashioned media to shred a party's campaign with."

Today we saw the first candidate have to resign/be sacked by their party because of their offensive tweets - Young Labour activist Stuart MacLennan who was running in such a difficult seat for Labour - the SNP's Moray - that he probably assumed no one except his mates was reading his Twitter feed.

Clearly he had to go - the stuff he said was offensive by any criteria and totally inappropriate language for a PPC.

But there is a wider issue about social media that this case makes more relevant.

For young people and students what they write on Twitter or Facebook is on a par with the text messages or phone calls they make, or with chatting in the pub. It is seen as a private medium for friends to chat.

But for people in public life, Twitter or Facebook is more akin to another form of broadcasting, and therefore the language you use needs to be almost as constrained as if you were being interviewed on TV or radio.

The problem Stuart MacLennan encountered is that he moved from being a private young person twittering offensive and silly remarks to his mates, to being a candidate for public office whose remarks are a matter of public interest. I understand some of the offensive tweets were written before he was selected as a candidate but have only just become public.

With anything anyone writes on the Internet being cached somewhere we need to think about a statute of limitations on how long ago someone had to say something stupid or offensive and still be judged on it. I think in Stuart MacLennan's case it was too recent to be excused as long distant youthful folly. But given that almost every young person in the country has written stuff on Facebook or Twitter or had pictures posted of themselves which would be damaging if they became a parliamentary candidate we have to watch that we don't set the bar so high that in future only people who spent their youth with no access to social media and lived a totally blameless life can run for office.

David Cameron has defended his right to a private life "before politics" when questioned about drugs. We may have a dilemma in that most young people consider their use of social media websites part of their private life, yet the things they have written are both public and permanent. I'm not sure how we resolve that.

In the mean time my warning to blogging and tweeting political activists still stands: what you write can't be unwritten and has as much potential to derail your campaign and get you in papers for all the wrong reasons as to enhance it.

Cameron's botched intervention in Northern Ireland

My friend Connall McDevitt is a thoughtful and forward-looking SDLP MLA for South Belfast.

This is his take on what Cameron is up to in Northern Ireland:

http://oconallstreet.com/2010/04/09/cameron-beats-the-sectarian-drum-hard-and-loud-change-i-dont-think-so/

Council by-election

Unusually for the middle of a General Election campaign, there was a council by-election yesterday. Result: a Labour gain in Essex (admittedly a very idiosyncratic part of Essex - Jaywick):

Golfs Green Ward, Tendring DC. Lab gain from Community Representation Party. Lab 409 (28.2%, -1.2%), Con 404 (27.9%, +7.5), Tendring First 313 (21.6%, -28.6), BNP 139 (9.6%, +9.6), Ind 120 (8.3%, +8.3), LD 63 (4.4%, +4.4). Swing of 4.4% from Lab to Con since 2007.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Constituency hashtags

The official hashtags for tweeting about individual constituencies on Twitter are now here: http://www2.politicalbetting.com/index.php/ge2010-hashtags/

Election Guide

I was involved in writing this at work. Hope it is of interest:


Weber Shandwick UK General Election Guide 2010

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

And on another site ...

The outfit I work for, Weber Shandwick Public Affairs, has launched a General Election blog: http://election.webershandwick.co.uk/

We have a cross-party staff so there will hopefully be some lively debate generated between the likes of me and Jo-ann Robertson and Colin Byrne and our Tory colleagues Tara Hamilton-Miller and Lisa O'Toole. Hopefully the online debate won't get quite as heated as the real life one - I seem to have a talent for winding up my Tory colleagues (they accused me of being "tribalist and divisive" during PMQs today - whatever gave them that impression!).

Leaflets

Observers of the ground campaign being waged in the constituencies can now see the leaflets being delivered by the different parties online here: http://www.thestraightchoice.org/

Tory PPCs by numbers

How modernised are Cameron's Conservatives?

Only 4% of candidates believe international development should be a policy area most protected from spending cuts Source: Conservative Home, 3 July 2009 http://conservativehome.blogs.com/goldlist/2009/07/pronuclear-gay-friendly-barely-unionist-very-eurosceptic-meet-the-next-generation-of-tory-mps.html

75% of PPCs were sympathetic to the idea of voucher schemes in the schools system Source: Conservative Home, 3 July 2009 http://conservativehome.blogs.com/goldlist/2009/07/pronuclear-gay-friendly-barely-unionist-very-eurosceptic-meet-the-next-generation-of-tory-mps.html

93% opposed the target of getting 50% of young people into university Source: Conservative Home, 3 July 2009 http://conservativehome.blogs.com/goldlist/2009/07/pronuclear-gay-friendly-barely-unionist-very-eurosceptic-meet-the-next-generation-of-tory-mps.html

Less than a quarter of candidates believe school spending should be most protected from cuts Source: Conservative Home, 3 July 2009 http://conservativehome.blogs.com/goldlist/2009/07/pronuclear-gay-friendly-barely-unionist-very-eurosceptic-meet-the-next-generation-of-tory-mps.html

72% of those polled agreed that Britain needs a fundamental renegotiation of its relationship with the European Union Source: New Statesman, 25 February 2010

20% of PPCs supported the reintroduction of the death penalty Source: New Statesman, 25 February 2010

The other elections on 6th May

As well as the General Election there are council elections across London and the Mets and in many districts on 6th May. Andy Sawford of the LGIU has profiled the councils where a change of control may happen: http://lgiu.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/local-elections-ones-to-watch-councils-most-likely-to-change-control/

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Comparing this to '92 is an insult to Neil Kinnock

All day today the media has been comparing this election to 1992, because of its closeness.

In one sense I hope they are correct and that the analogy of an incumbent government seeing off an opposition ahead in the polls to win a 4th term turns out to be what happens.

But Cameron doesn't deserve to be compared to Neil Kinnock.

Kinnock had spent nine very tough years as opposition leader radically reforming his party. We found out on polling day 1992 that it wasn't enough, but the scale of Kinnock's political achievement in making Labour potentially electable dwarfs anything Cameron has done. Kinnock had with great political courage taken on and expelled Militant. He had carried out a full-scale policy review which junked the his activists' sacred cow of unilateral disarmament. Even before this he had scrapped Labour's hostility to Europe, its opposition to right-to-buy and its 1983 economic strategy based on nationalisation.

Cameron has done the superficial, presentational bits of what Kinnock did - slicker campaigning, a new logo, a softer image, more diverse candidates (by background, gender and ethnicity but not by ideology - some of Cameron's BME and women candidates are unreconstructed Thatcherite headbangers).

But he has made none of the really tough policy changes that would have involved taking on his own MPs and activists and forcing them to come to terms with why they lost three elections. Policy and ideological change on the scale Kinnock achieved between 1983 and 1992, let alone what Blair did after 1994, would have required Cameron to force his party to embrace the EU rather than forming its own fringe group in the European Parliament, and to be proposing a balanced approach to tackling the deficit whilst protecting public services rather than a hardline Thatcherite one based on tax and spending cuts.

Unlike Kinnock, Cameron has lacked both the intellectual courage to change his own views on these fundamental issues and the political courage to fight to change his own party's positions.

Kinnock would have sacked a frontbencher like Chris Grayling who said something so out of tune with the Party's revised stance. Cameron just fudges it.

We know that out in the marginals the supposedly reformed Tories are running on the same dog-whistle messages on immigration and Europe as in 2005. It's as though Kinnock has secretly subcontracted his key seat strategy to Tony Benn.

How can someone like Cameron who has failed to fundamentally change their own party aspire to change the country?

And unlike in 1992 the government's record is of making the right decisions. This Labour government saved the economy by rescuing the banks. The Tory government that was reelected in 1992 did so after introducing and then being forced to abandon the Poll Tax.

The electoral analogy the Tories deserve because of their failure to reform themselves is not Labour in 1997, it's not even Labour in 1992, it's Labour in 1987 - campaigning slicked up, logo changed, policies not changed nearly enough, result: a marginal improvement from 209 seats to 229.

Monday, April 05, 2010

A good poll to kick off the short campaign

ICM -

Con 37% (down 1)
Lab 33% (up 4)
LD 21% (down 2)

a) ICM are seen by other pollsters as the "gold standard" for accuracy
b) this percentage share would make Labour the largest party in the Commons by about a 25 seat margin
c) traditionally there's about a 5% swing back to the government during most UK General Election campaigns - it only need a 2% swing for Labour to be level with the Tories and back on the score we got in 2005

Blaenau Gwent

People looking for an interesting General Election bet might want to put some money on Labour's Nick Smith to regain the traditionally Labour stronghold of Blaenau Gwent from Independent MP Dai Davis who had a majority of under 2,500 in the 2006 by-election.

If the press coverage is anything to go by Mr Davis is coming under some scrutiny and has been found to be a bit less-than-focused on local issues in the House of Commons.

It would be a nice tribute to Michael Foot to see his old seat return to Labour.

Friday, April 02, 2010

20 tips for candidates

Iain Dale has a good post today - http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2010/04/twenty-pieces-of-advice-to-election.html - 20 tips for election candidates.

As I'm now going round the track for my 7th election as a candidate (3 including this one for borough council, 1 for a county council seat, 1 for a district council and 2 for parliament) and I think my 12th as an Agent, here are my 20 tips (with some crossover with Iain's):

  1. As Candidate you are not in charge - you are the "legal necessity"/the product being marketed - it's your Agent who has the final say on all aspects of the campaign. Trust their judgment.
  2. But you do need to show "leadership" by example. If you want to get people out campaigning for you the best way to do it is to shame them into it by the amount of work you do. The candidate should always be the person who has made the single biggest contribution to canvassing, not least because contact with the candidate massively increases propensity to turn out and vote.
  3. You need a proper written campaign plan so that you know what you are supposed to be doing on each day of the campaign. Get it agreed by your local party so that you have written authority and buy-in for everything you want to do, pay for and publish.
  4. You can't make up at the end of a campaign for time wasted at the start. Hit the ground running.
  5. If you find you don't enjoy campaigning then politics is not for you, because it's all about representing people so you have to like meeting them. Withdraw while it's early enough to do so and let someone else who finds it fun have a go.
  6. By running for public office you throw your entire life open to public and media scrutiny. Withdraw or don't run if you are fanatical about your privacy.
  7. Be true to your own beliefs. Don't just spout the party line, say what you believe - making clear which opinions are personal and not official party policy. People want politicians with views, not automatons who memorise the manifesto.
  8. Remember that for party activists and die-hard supporters you temporarily embody all their hopes and aspirations. Your behaviour needs to reflect the trust people have put in you. During the campaign and if you win there is no "off-duty" time - you are the candidate 24/7 and anything daft you do reflects on your candidature and party.
  9. The single metric of success that counts before polling day is the number of voters you speak to on the phone or doorstep. Prioritise canvassing over all other activity and during the short campaign if you are a parliamentary candidate try to do canvassing from 10am to 12 noon, 1pm to 5pm and 6pm to 8.30pm. Other tasks like press releases and emails should be done when it is too early or too late to talk to voters. Set a target number of canvassing contacts to make each hour and keep trying to hit it.
  10. If you are doing that work on the doorstep you need to be fit and have comfortable shoes and socks - 30 days of walking/standing for 8.5 hours a day is physically tough.
  11. Eat healthily and cut back on drinking during the campaign - you need a clear head and maximum energy. However, a single beer or glass of wine each night will help you unwind and get to sleep at a very stressful time.
  12. Have a weekend evening off every week during the campaign when you spend time with your family with no political TV and your mobile and email switched off.
  13. Don't get worked up about the national campaign. You can't affect it. Put your emotional energy into your own ward or constituency where you can make the difference.
  14. Say yes to all hustings. You won't get a single extra vote by public speaking but if you out debate your opponents your morale and your team's will soar and your opponents' morale will be damaged. The kind of people who go to hustings are opinion-formers in their communities.
  15. Try to be friendly to the other candidates (unless they are fascists). They are your opponents not your enemies and a bit of courtesy, respect and humanity should stop them campaigning against you in a personalised way.
  16. Nurture the local press - they need stories and pictures.
  17. You need a compelling local narrative for your campaign. If you can't tell the story of why people should vote for you and your party in one sentence, why should people consider voting for you? It needs to explain the positive difference electing you and your party will make to their lives.
  18. Save the best, punchiest message for a final leaflet that goes out in the last week - too late for the opposition to respond and at the point when ordinary voters finally realise there is an election on.
  19. Don't stop getting out the vote until 10pm on polling day. I was involved in a parliamentary campaign where we started winding down at 9pm and lost by just 45 votes - a number we could easily have pulled out in the final hour.
  20. The count is part of the campaign not a social event. People have lost elections because they weren't paying attention in closely contested counts and didn't spot errors by the counting staff.

Council by-election

Just one tonight:

John O'Gaunt Ward, Lancaster DC. Lab hold. Lab 603 (35.2%, -4.9), LD 389 (22.7%, +22.7), Green 339 (19.8%, -17.5), Con 301 (17.6%, -5), UKIP 83 (4.8%, +4.8). Swing of 13.8% from Lab to LD since 2007. This is in the Lab vs Con new parliamentary marginal constituency of Lancaster & Fleetwood. The Greens have one of the three councillors in this ward and had been expecting a gain tonight.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

April Fool

Luciana Berger's Lib Dem opponent in Liverpool Wavertree forgets the date:

http://www.liverpoollabour.org/Communication/Eldridges_April_Fool_Blunder.aspx

Are the Tories progressive or not?

Of course not.

http://ratemytory.org.uk/

 
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